The soft Texas drawl gives Chris Clayton away. There is a sincerity to it that, even before he starts talking about his music and God, belies the shaggy-beard quality of his photo on the band’s website. Make no mistake: the band rocks! But when the suburban Dallas father of four boys speaks, it’s as a true believer.
“My father was a Baptist minister, so I came to know Christ at a very young age,” Chris tells ChristianMusic. “It wasn’t until junior high school, though, that I understood what it meant to have a relationship with Christ… what a walk with Christ meant.”
Though the Chris Clayton band plays to people of all ages, and performs often in church services, their look and sound have an energy that speaks particularly to youth. “We didn’t really set out to write for any particular age group,” explains Chris. His sound, he says, “is just where God has taken me in my journey with him.”
“Summer is a highlight of the year because we’ll be doing six camps all over the country,” says Chris. “Camps are cool because we get to invest some time in the students that we’re leading. Throughout the day, we’re hanging out with them, but mainly leading the music.” And, as evidenced in an entertaining verite video, playing dodgeball.
Chris started out leading worship and performing for youth when his audience was the same age he was. “My grandparents bought me my first acoustic guitar,” he says. “I started playing in ninth grade. Steven Chapman was one of my heroes, and still is to this day.”
“We would go to conference and we would take songs back to our church [in Beaumont, Texas] and play,” Chris says. “My student minister was a big advocate for us.”
Though he and the band are on the road most of the time, Chris still leads worship at his church, 121 Community Church, in Grapevine, Texas. He also works as a record producer and engineer for other Christian musicians. Even with a busy summer, Chris and the band are working on five more songs to complement their latest EP, “Anthems of Mystery.”
The bass player, Matt, is the new guy in the band. The other three have been together for over three years. “Jordan, my guitar player, was one of my students when I was teaching a class at Dallas Baptist College,” Chris says. “My drummer, Brad has been with me for four years. I met him in my recording studio.”
“Anthems of Mystery” is doing well on the iTunes charts. Explains Chris, “I just really like anthems. You want to shout them. They come from deep within.
“The biggest song on the album, ‘Hope of Glory,’ almost didn’t make it on the record,” Chris says, adding that it is being played by other local churches in their worship services. Does this “slower” song work with his rock style? “We do church-wide events a lot, with students and adults,” he explains. “You want to be true to your music, but you have to be aware of the audience. You have to be sensitive to the people in the service.”
“The main thing,” Chris adds, “you have to be confident in the message.”
-- Nate Lee